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Step up to the mark during Global Entrepreneurship Week

There is no shortage of events taking place over Global Entrepreneurship Week, from short practical workshops about starting a business, to the U+ project providing a platform for over 100 school pupils to express their creative talents and speak with key players from TV, radio, film, and the arts.

As we go through a period of change, both in terms of innovation, opportunity and economy, entrepreneurship is increasingly pitched to young people as a viable alternative to further education or traditional employment, and is supported by various initiatives such as start-up loans, youth focused groups and learning programmes, as well as new entrepreneurship focused qualifications endorsed by some of the UK’s most famous business names.

The debate continues, however, about whether or not entrepreneurs are born or bred. To shed more light on this this, I believe we need to look more at the childhoods of young people, understand the development of peak performance, and open our eyes to the possibility of being able to identify the next leaders, change makers and business superstars before they have even left primary school. In the adult world, entrepreneurs are often compared to athletes, to performers, and to anyone who has been able to show courage, strength, commitment and determination in order to reach their goals. We often talk of a mindset for excellence, an attitude and resolve that is shared among the highest achievers in the world, whether Steve Jobs, Stevie Wonder or Steve Redgrave.

Of course these exceptional individuals may be born with a predisposition to achievement, yet it is also important to consider if Mozart could have become the Mozart of history had he not had access to a piano, and parents that provided affirmation and encouragement as he was first starting to play. Similarly, would Shakespeare’s name have become a byword for immortal literary achievement had he been without ink and paper in his childhood? What support did the young Will receive and how were his first manuscripts welcomed and critiqued by those around him? It is hard to imagine David Beckham being anything other than ‘golden balls’ but it is undeniable that without the love of his family, the commitment of his coaches and sponsors, and the skill of people around him, from physios to PR, he would just be a guy that dreamt of being a footballer when he was young.

Spotting the early signs of business talent and entrepreneurial potential is crucial, yet unlike sports stars,

performers, actors and singers, who have long been noticed and nurtured from a young age, we are yet to understand the long term potential of developing the ‘enterprising child’ and what this shift in mindset might mean for our future generations, economy, and for the pride and perception of our nation.

There is no shortage of young people who through guidance and support at an early age have followed their passions and dreams.  I have had the privilege of interviewing many of them, including 21 year old chocolatier Louis Barnett, and 14 year old digital developer Nina Devani. Both are doing amazing things and already making significant contributions to society and economy with their work. The challenge is to understand, develop, and extend, an approach to the nurture of our children that gives them all an equal chance to shine and to achieve.

Ultimately, actions speak louder than words, so during a week when we celebrate entrepreneurship in all its forms, I’d like to ask what will you be doing to support and nurture young people in your community to help them take their first steps forward to fulfilling their dreams and potential?
Published Tuesday January 22, 2013